Donegal Orange hall rises again from the ashes

The rebuilt Convoy Orange hall, which is due to open next month
The rebuilt Convoy Orange hall, which is due to open next month

Final preparations are being made by a Donegal lodge to re-open their Orange hall which was destroyed in an arson attack two years ago.

Members of Thiepval Memorial LOL 1005 are almost ready for the eagerly anticipated dedication of Convoy hall, scheduled to take place early next month.

The finishing touches are now being applied to the impressive new building ahead of the formal re-opening on Saturday, October 8.

Brethren were devastated when the property was gutted by arsonists in a malicious attack on the north-west community facility in October 2014. The deliberate blaze occurred only weeks after criminals destroyed nearby Newtowncunningham Orange hall in a similar incident.

Convoy Worshipful Master Alan Laird expressed his delight as the two-year rebuilding project edged closer to conclusion, allowing his lodge to meet for the first time in familiar, but markedly improved, surroundings.

“It will be very exciting to get back into a new hall,” he said. “We have been using the facilities at Raphoe [for lodge meetings] but it will still be nice to finally get back home.”

Mr Laird said the new building is both larger and better equipped than its predecessor.

“The hall was primarily designed on what it would be needed for and the users who would be availing of it. We have improved all of the facilities. There are now amenities for indoor football and badminton, a meeting room, a room for band practice as well as a large store room. We also have broadband facilities for the first time.”

The re-opening will be conducted by the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, and Samuel Parker, a former member of the lodge.

His late father, Samuel Snr, and Oliver McClure led a team of voluntary workers and built the hall which lasted until the attack in 2014. The Larne man also laid the corner stone of the new hall, during the construction phase which commenced in February.

Mr Laird expressed his appreciation to the Loyal Order fraternity from across the British Isles who contributed to the Convoy hall appeal, set up in the aftermath of the criminal act.

“Without their support we would not be in such a privileged position,” he said.

Convoy Thiepval Memorial LOL 1005 was formed in 1919 as a lasting memorial to the Convoy men who fell during the Great War. The original hall was named the Thiepval Memorial Orange Hall in 1930. At least 70 unionist men from the local area served their King and country during the First World War. Some of their descendants are members of the lodge today.